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THE UNFULFILLED PROMISE
Posted by Time for change in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sun Jul 22nd 2007, 09:39 PM
George Bush's utter contempt for the laws of our nation, our Constitution, our Congress and the American people should make people wonder if he and Cheney intend to give up power peaceably in 2009. If we don't get rid of them now it may be much more
Many DUers (and other Americans as well) have expressed increasing levels of concern in recent days and weeks that Bush and Cheney intend at some point to strip away the remaining façade and turn our nation from a virtual dictatorship into an actual dictatorship, which they would preside over after cancelling the 2008 elections.

There are many good reasons for this fear in my opinion. Since entering office they have both shown nothing but contempt for domestic and international law and for our Constitution.

With George Bush’s hundreds of “signing statements” he has made clear that he, as the supreme “decider” of our nation, has no obligation to defer to Congress’s authority to enact the laws of our nation.

His secret plans for continuance of government in the event of a terrorist attack, given that only the executive branch of our government is privy to those plans, clearly violates the separation of powers at the heart of our constitutional system of government. Just how secret these plans are were demonstrated recently when Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio requested and was denied access to the plans, though he is a member of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee.

His obstructing of Congressional investigations into his many crimes and impeachable offenses by refusing to comply with subpoenas, ordering witnesses not to appear before Congress, and then ordering his Justice Department not to pursue contempt charges, further emphasizes his claim of absolute immunity from all the laws of our nation.

Last year The Nation published an article – a semi-spoof – about Bush cancelling the 2008 elections. I refer to this article as a semi-spoof, rather than as a spoof, because The Nation is a very serious publication. They have never done a spoof that I am aware of.

Nobody knows where this will end, but many have been wondering why the Bush-Cheney administration would go to such trouble to destroy the Constitutional basis for the rule of law in our nation if they were planning on giving up power following the 2008 elections. It is a question well worth wondering about.


Why we may be running out of time

Milton Mayer, who studied the thinking of ordinary lower level Nazis during Hitler’s rise to power, explained in his book, “They Thought They Were Free – The Germans 1933-45”, the gradual process by which Germans gave up their freedom to Hitler:

What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

Hitler’s takeover of Europe provides a similar case in point. When France allowed Germany to break its treaty obligations and occupy the Rhineland in 1936, they thereby allowed him to acquire an incalculable military advantage, without which he could never have attacked them. His defeat in 1936 was a near certainty if France had called his bluff. Again in 1938, he was appeased when he was given the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia in response to his threat to invade that country.

The lesson from this is clear. The longer we wait the more power Bush and Cheney will accumulate, and the more difficult it will be to dislodge them. If Congress moves to impeach them now, it is very possible that they will attempt a coup de tat. However, if that happens you can be sure that the impeachment effort will have changed only the timing of the coup de tat, not its occurrence. And furthermore, by so changing timing, Congress will also have reduced its likelihood of success, by moving it forward to a point in time when the tyrants would probably be less prepared.

There is no appeasing a Hitler. Nor is it possible to appease a George W. Bush or a Dick Cheney. Anyone who doesn’t see that either is not paying very close attention or is in denial.


Can it happen here?

To those who say that Americans are immune to the tragedy that overtook Germany in the 1930s I say, I hope you’re right, but I see little evidence of it. Consider some parallels:

With both regimes a terrorist event (The Reichstag fire in the case of Germany) provided an excuse to the prevailing regime for extensive suspension of civil liberties guaranteed by their respective constitutions.

Both Bush and Hitler knowingly lied to their own people and to the outside world to justify an invasion of another country that posed no threat to their country – invasions that both leaders had desired for years.

Both regimes exercised a considerable degree of effective control over the primary sources of news in their respective countries.

Hitler used blatant racism to justify and facilitate his consolidation of powers in Germany. Though less obvious, George Bush’s use of “Islamist fundamentalism” to invoke fear in American citizens is undoubtedly a powerful tool for his consolidation of power. The acceptance by many Americans of George Bush’s imprisoning and torture of thousands of Muslims, while allowing them no access to internationally recognized human rights to challenge their detentions, is undoubtedly facilitated by racist attitudes.

Both regimes made it quite clear that they would not be swayed in the slightest bit by world opinion where their own perceived interests were at stake.

Both regimes treated their political opponents ruthlessly – probably as ruthlessly as the realities of the situation would permit.

In the case of both Hitler and Bush, the threat of a de-stabilized republic contributed to pressure to appoint them Chancellor and President respectively, and in both cases the threat of violence was an important factor in leading to their ascension to power.


Consider the impeachment of Richard Nixon

I recently posted an article on DU that described many impeachable offenses committed by Bush/Cheney, for which abundant evidence already exists. One thing I didn’t do in that post was to make comparisons with the impeachment of Richard Nixon. I’ll make those comparisons here as a straight-forward answer to anyone who thinks that the offenses committed by Bush and Cheney don’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses:

Article I – Obstruction of justice
The first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon involved several actions that he took to cover up his involvement in the Watergate break-in.

The Bush/Cheney administration has gone way beyond obstruction of justice with respect to one specific crime. In comparison, they have made a full scale attempt to pervert the whole Justice Department, by firing attorneys who refuse to comply with their political agenda and replacing them with obsequious sheep.

Article II – Violating the Constitutional rights of American citizens
The Constitutional rights involved in this article of impeachment against Richard Nixon pertained almost wholly to his spying on American citizens.

By contrast, the Bush/Cheney administration has repeatedly violated several of our Constitutional rights:

George Bush has denied us our First Amendment rights in numerous ways: He denies the right of protesters to be heard by confining the right of protest to “first amendment zones”. He denies government access to journalists who fail to tow his line. He ties up our airways, using tax dollars, with government propagandists pretending to be real journalists. And he has even claimed the right to imprison journalists who expose administration crimes to the public.

George Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program is a clear example of massive and repeated violations of our Fourth Amendment rights. Though Bush has repeatedly assured Americans that the program’s purpose is to “catch terrorists”, he has offered no evidence to that effect. If the Bush administration’s wiretapping of American citizens had a justifiable basis behind it, there should be no reason it couldn’t request warrants to conduct them. Though Bush claims that that would hamper his “War on Terror”, that claim is patently absurd, since the law allows the requesting of warrants to be retroactive. Furthermore, knowledgeable sources have maintained that, though thousands of warrantless wiretaps per year have been ordered and conducted by the Bush administration, fewer than ten per year are justified by the constitutional standard of “reasonable cause” for suspicion.

In its so-called “War on Terror”, the Bush administration has violated virtually every provision of our Fifth and Sixth Amendments. It is barely an exaggeration to say that our detainees in this so-called war have no rights whatsoever. They are held indefinitely, and only a minute fraction of them have charges brought against them. They are not allowed to confront witnesses against them. They are not given access to counsel. According to our own military, most of them are completely innocent. The whole idea of “innocent until proven guilty” is turned inside out by our administration’s repeated public pronouncements on their guilt.

There is abundant evidence that torture of our detainees is widespread and routine, as documented by Human Rights Watch, Seymour Hersh, Amnesty International, the International Red Cross, and our own FBI. Furthermore, the Bush administration has issued memos affirming its right to torture our prisoners, and George Bush himself has appended a “signing statement” to an anti-torture bill passed by Congress.

Article III – Failure to comply with Congressional subpoenas
I’ve already discussed this issue in the initial portion of this post. Suffice it to say that Bush and Cheney’s refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas has been flagrant, repeated, without any justifiable excuse, and hardly requires any “investigation” to substantiate.


I think we’ve run out of alternative options

George Bush and Dick Cheney have determined that they have the right to exempt themselves from any law as long as they CLAIM that they are doing it to protect American citizens during wartime. Since our current “War on Terrorism” is not likely to end any time in the foreseeable future, that means that Bush and Cheney have claimed this right for an indefinite period of time.

If they can unilaterally abolish our constitutional rights; if they can assert no accountability whatsoever to Congressional oversight; if they can assert the power to perform the functions of the legislative and judiciary branches of our government; in short, if they can assert that they are totally immune to the rule of law, international and domestic, then what is to prevent them from unilaterally declaring martial law, cancelling the 2008 elections, throwing dissidents into prison (probably to be tortured), and ruling our country with an iron fist for many years to come?

They’ve already shown themselves impervious to any other attempt to reign them in. What tools do we have left other than their impeachment and removal from office?


PS – Don’t forget David Swanson’s recent post, noting that John Conyers has promised to start impeachment hearings if he can find three more Congresspersons to support it. He ends his post by telling us about the impeachment march at Arlington National Cemetery tomorrow (or today, depending on when you’re reading this), Monday, July 23rd, and saying:

Not everyone will be able to take part. But everyone can take two minutes on Monday and do two things: phone Chairman Conyers at 202-225-5126 and ask him to start the impeachment of dick Cheney; and phone your own Congress Member at 202-224-3121 and ask them to immediately call Conyers' office to express their support for impeachment. Your Congress Member might just be one of the three needed, not just to keep us out of jail but to keep this nation from devolving into dictatorship.

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The Unfulfilled Promise
The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream: The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals




Time for change


Notwithstanding the lofty sentiments and purpose of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the reality of the United States of America did not then – and never has – lived up to its ideal. Our nation remains today a long way from fulfilling the promise implied by those ideals. Yet, our Declaration was a great start, and it has long shone as a beacon of hope for people all over the world.

Throughout our history, while many have striven to close the gap between our highest ideals and the reality of our nation, others have focused on the accumulation of private wealth and power, at the expense of everyone else. In recent decades the latter have gained much ground, leading to increasing imperialism abroad and deteriorating democracy at home, characterized by routine (and legal) bribery of our public officials, the fusion of government and private corporate interests (corporatocracy), a corrupt election system largely in the hands of private corporations, a corporate controlled communications media, and the widespread acceptance of Executive Branch secrecy, routinely justified with little if any questioning, by the magic words “national security”. All of this is rapidly turning our country from the democracy proclaimed at our founding into a plutocracy (government by the wealthy and for the wealthy). The result is the most obscene wealth gap our country has ever known, the highest imprisonment rate in the world, rampant militarism, routine flaunting of international law, the least efficient health care system in the developed world, a pending environmental catastrophe that threatens to destroy the life sustaining forces of our planet, and myriad other problems that threaten to destroy our nation and tyrannize our people.

My new book, The Unfulfilled Promise of the American Dream – The Widening Gap between the Reality of the United States and its Highest Ideals, explores the roots and consequences of the demise of our democracy, and why most Americans have been unable to understand this process or even become aware of it. A good understanding of why and how we have deviated so greatly from the ideals of our nation is the first and necessary step towards getting back on the right track and revitalizing our society.

The book is currently being sold in electronic PDF format and can be purchased at http://www.unfulfilledpromise.com/Buy-the-... for $3.99. It will also soon be available in Amazon Kindle format. DU members who cannot afford to buy the book but would like to read it can pm me with your e-mail address, and I will send you a free PDF copy.

I’ve previously posted on DU a slightly earlier version of the introduction to the book, which is also posted at my site. Here is the Table of Contents, followed by a brief description of the three parts of the book:


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
Acknowledgements
Prologue – What is Wrong with the United States of America?

Part I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy
Chapter 1 – Legalized Bribery
Chapter 2 – Human Psychological Factors
Chapter 3 – Corporatocracy
Chapter 4 – Corporate Control of Media
Chapter 5 – Corrupt Election System
Chapter 6 – Government Secrecy
Chapter 7 – American Exceptionalism

Part II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions
Chapter 8 – Slavery and its Legacy
Chapter 9 – Early U.S. Imperialism
Chapter 10 – U.S. Imperialism in Cold War
Chapter 11 – Iraq War and Occupation
Chapter 12 – Afghanistan War

Part III – Consequences
Chapter 13 – Election of George W. Bush
Chapter 14 – War and Imperialism
Chapter 15 – Class Warfare
Chapter 16 – Predator Financial Class
Chapter 17 – Shock Therapy
Chapter 18 – Contempt for Int. Law
Chapter 19 – The “War on Drugs”
Chapter 20 – Climate Change
Chapter 21 – “War on Terror”
Chapter 22 – Health Care
Chapter 23 – Unaccountable government
Chapter 24 – Response to 9/11 Attacks
Epilogue


PART I – Root Causes of the Impending Demise of American Democracy

It is somewhat difficult to separate the causes of our problems from their consequences, since they combine to form a long chain of cause leading to consequence, leading to more consequences, etcetera. Nevertheless, it seems worth while to identify the root causes of our problems, those that occur early in the chain and lead to so many of the tragic consequences we see today. The only chance we have of reversing the demise of our democracy is through addressing and attacking its root causes.

At the top of the list is the systematic bribery of public officials by the powerful corporations (Chapter 1) whom our government is charged with regulating in the public interest. Instead of calling it bribery, we call it “campaign contributions”, but what we call it isn’t as important as what it is. It is hard to fathom how democracy can survive when such a practice is legal and condoned.

Working in tandem with our system of legalized bribery is the nature of the people who inhabit our country. That is not to say that Americans are inherently substantially different than any other people. Human beings are imperfect, and that is probably a major reason why in a world where civilization began more than five millennia ago, the oldest written national framework of government in the world today – the Constitution of the United States of America – is only a little more than two and a quarter centuries old. Chapter 2 explores the roles of basic human needs, authoritarianism, psychological defense mechanisms used to prevent us from perceiving reality as it is rather than as we’d like it to be, and corrupted ideologies in causing us to passively accept the accumulation of power in the hands of ambitious and ruthless individuals who care about little else than expanding their own wealth and power.

When bribery of public officials is tolerated as an inevitable aspect of public life, government inevitably grows close to the wealthy interests that shower it with money in return for legislative and other favors. A malevolent symbiosis grows between the state and corporate power, resulting in rule by an oligarchy that is highly detrimental to the lives of ordinary people (Chapter 3). Using their accumulated wealth and power to manipulate our legislative process, the oligarchy grabs for more and more control of the communications media (Chapter 4) that are used to control the information available to and shape the attitudes of our nation’s people, in pursuit of their own narrow interests.

Since the 1980s an orchestrated campaign has been underway to demonize “big government”, thereby paving the way for private corporate control over more and more functions that were previously deemed intrinsic functions of government. Among those functions is the running of public elections (Chapter 5) – the function that symbolizes democracy perhaps more than any other single function. Consequently, the purging of selected registered voters from our computerized voter rolls has become a routine recurring event throughout much of our country, and without a doubt determined the results of the 2000 – and probably 2004 as well – presidential election. Just as bad, more and more of the counting of votes in our public elections have been turned over to private corporations, which count our votes using electronic machines using secret software to produce vote counts that cannot be verified by anyone.

Bribery, the fusion of government and private interest, fake and biased news, and corrupt elections are not things that government and its corporate allies want us to know about. Consequently, they construct walls of secrecy (Chapter 6) to keep us from obtaining information that sheds light on their activities. The perfect phrase for facilitating this is “national security”. When our government tells us that the “national security” requires that certain things be kept secret from us, the understanding is that to question such a pronouncement is unpatriotic, and to actually attempt to obtain the “secret” information may be treasonous.

But indefinitely maintaining secrets from the American people can be very difficult, because at least some people want to know what their government is up to. So in addition to the formal mechanisms of secrecy, informal mechanisms are constructed (Chapter 7) to keep vital information away from us. One of the primary methods for doing this is to make certain sensitive subjects taboo – that is, to create the widespread belief that discussion of these topics is so outside the bounds of acceptable human discourse that anyone who discusses them should be shunned by society, or worse. The most common issue that falls into this category is any discussion that sheds light on the disparity between American ideals and the reality of life in our country today.


PART II – A Sampling of Imperialist Actions in U.S. History

Notwithstanding the fact that our founding document says that “all men are created equal” and speaks of the inalienable rights of humankind, the United States has throughout its history partaken of massive exploitation of other peoples.

It is estimated that at the time of our birth, 18% of our population was black slaves. In our expansion westwards during the late 18th and 19th centuries, we decimated the original inhabitants of our continent, and often treated them with great cruelty. In 1846 we manufactured an excuse for war with our neighbor Mexico, in which we continued to expand our country westwards and southwards. In 1893 we began our overseas imperialism with the conquest of Hawaii. Our overseas expansion was greatly accelerated in 1898 with our participation in the Spanish-American War, which led to our conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. With our arrival at world superpower status at the end of World War II, we began the Cold War, which led to and served as a rationalization for covert and/or direct military actions against myriad foreign nations over the next 46 years. With the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country, we declared a perpetual “War on Terror”, which served and continues to serve as an excuse to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, nations that posed no threat to us. We do not know when or if this perpetual war will ever end. We don’t know how many additional imperial conquests it will lead to.

Most Americans don’t think much about all this. Many of these actions are done in secrecy, and the American people don’t find out about them until many years later – or we never find out about them at all. Those that we do know about are spun into the most favorable light, to make them seem benign or even noble.

But these actions come at great costs: in the lives of our soldiers; in the ruined lives of the peoples of the victim countries; in trillions of dollars cost to our people and their future generations; in our international reputation; in anti-American hatred leading to terrorism; and, to our democracy itself. For how can a nation claim to believe in the inalienable rights of humankind specified in its founding document, while making a mockery of that belief in the way it treats other peoples? For that reason alone it is worth while to take a brief look at our long history of imperialist actions.


PART III – Consequences

In the Prologue I give a brief account of what I see as some of the worst and tragic consequences of the root causes that I discuss in Part I – to enable the reader to see where this book is heading. When elections of our public officials are for sale to the highest bidder… when our public officials are so addicted to the “campaign contributions” of their wealthiest constituents that they develop a symbiotic relationship with them… when our communications media are owned and controlled by an oligarchy of wealthy elites… when our citizenry lack the ability to differentiate propaganda from reality… when we allow machines provided by private corporations to count our votes using secret electronic software… then we should expect that the consequences will not be pretty or comfortable for the vast majority of our citizens.

In Part III, I explore those consequences in much greater detail, in the hope that the reader will agree with me that these are very serious problems, and that they must be successfully addressed if our country is ever to fulfill the promise of its ideals, or even make progress in that direction. When enough Americans recognize our problems as problems, stripped of the gloss and spin put on them by our oligarchy, they will rise up and do something about them. Until then there will be no progress, and we are very likely to head in the direction of all the former empires of our planet, ending in chaos, widespread catastrophe, suffering, and ignominy.

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